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The Process of Naturalization

Lauri Mckenna

The Process of Naturalization

Immigration Law
| 5 min
6 Min

Becoming a United States citizen provides many opportunities and is one of the most important decisions you can make as a non-citizen. There are several ways an immigrant or a non-citizen can become an American citizen.

However, to become a U.S. citizen, you need first to go through a naturalization process that starts with establishing your eligibility to apply for citizenship. Other steps include completing an application, fingerprinting, and attending a citizenship interview. You also need to pass an English and a civics test and attend an oath ceremony.

Step 1: Determine Whether You Are Eligible For U.S. Citizenship

Before you can apply to become a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process, you need to fulfill specific eligibility requirements set by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). To qualify for naturalization, you must be: 

  • At least eighteen years old
  • A lawful permanent resident for at least five years (or three years if you are married to an American citizen)
  • Of a good moral character
  • Able to pass an English test and a U.S history and government test
  • Willing to defend the U.S Constitution

You are also eligible for naturalization if you have served in the U.S. military. Once you have met these eligibility requirements, you may apply for naturalization. However, if you have not met the requirements, you should wait until you are eligible. 

Step 2: Complete Application Paperwork and Send Application

After establishing that you are eligible to apply for naturalization, you need to complete some paperwork as part of the application process. The process starts by completing USCIS Form N-400, Application for Naturalization. The form requires you to submit personal details and other relevant information. 

You need to provide two passport-sized photographs of yourself. They must meet USCIS requirements, including matching your current facial characteristics. Along with Form N-400 and passport-sized photos, you also need to provide photocopies of necessary documents, including your birth certificate, passport, green card, and visa.

After accurately completing all the required paperwork and providing the necessary documents, you need to send the application package and the required application fees to the USCIS office.

Step 3: Attend a Biometrics Appointment

After the USCIS receives and accepts your application, they will invite you for a biometrics appointment. Typically, they will give you a date and a designated USCIS office location where you will provide fingerprints and other biometric information. You will also need to bring your original documents. 

Using the FBI and other relevant databases, USCIS will conduct a background check on you before processing your application. After running a criminal background check, USCIS might instantly reject your application if they find a major criminal conviction. If they find a minor offense, they may delay your application for further checks. 

Step 4: Attend a Naturalization Interview

After a successful biometrics verification, USCIS will schedule naturalization or a citizenship interview for you. They will give you a date, time, and place for the interview. Mostly, the interview involves answering a series of questions; hence you must be well prepared. 

The USCIS will go over your application documents, including the N-400 Form, and through a series of questions, require you to confirm the information in the documents verbally. In addition to using the interview to establish the provided information's authenticity, USCIS officers will also use the interview to judge your character and moral standing. 

USCIS will use the interview to gauge whether you are committed to the responsibilities of being a U.S citizen, and your willingness to take the oath of allegiance. During the citizenship interview, USCIS officers will examine your ability to read, write, and speak English. They will also test your understanding of U.S civics, including laws and regulations.

While the English and U.S Civics test might not directly affect the application process, they might indirectly affect other crucial aspects. For instance, interviewers may see your failure to understand basic U.S laws and regulations as a lack of commitment and disinterest in the U.S Constitution.

It is advisable to have a basic understanding of U.S laws before attending the interview. It would help if you also tried to arrive early for the interview. Additionally, it would help if you answered interview questions honestly and accurately according to the information in your application documents.

Step 5: Attend Oath Ceremony

The naturalization interview marks the end of the application process, after which you must wait for the decision on whether or not USCIS will grant you U.S. citizenship. Generally, there are three potential outcomes, including accepting your application to become a U.S citizen.

USCIS can also reject your application and require you to leave the country when your visa expires. They can also ask you to provide additional information or attend other appointments before processing your application.  

If your application is accepted, you will be required to attend an oath ceremony to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Afterward, you will receive a Certificate of Naturalization that identifies you as an American citizen. The oath ceremony marks the end of the naturalization process.

After Naturalization

After becoming a U.S. citizen through the naturalization process, you get the same rights and privileges as all U.S. citizens, including voting in public elections. The U.S. Constitution also protects you from deportation. With the rights also come responsibilities, including honoring and respecting the U.S Constitution. To fully enjoy your status as a naturalized citizen, you will need to understand all the rights and obligations of a U.S citizen.


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